The South Asia Channel

U.S. to Keep More Troops in Afghanistan; BJP Denies Snooping Charges; Suicide Attacks in Pakistan Churches Kill 15

Afghanistan U.S. to keep more troops in Afghanistan U.S. officials said on Monday that the Obama administration will no longer be cutting the number of soldiers in Afghanistan to 5,500 by the end of 2015 (AP, Guardian). Although no final decision has been made on how many soldiers will remain, the officials said the administration might allow ...

AFGHANISTAN-UNREST-ATTACK
A US soldier keeps watch at the scene following a suicide attack on a Turkish diplomatic vehicle in front of the Iranian embassy in Kabul on February 26, 2015. A Taliban suicide attack targeting a Turkish diplomatic vehicle killed two people in Kabul, highlighting the fragile security situation as the Afghan government presses for peace talks with the militants.The blast came shortly after 8:00 am (0330 GMT), not far from the Iranian embassy. Police said the dead included a Turkish national and an Afghan passer-by.Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai gave details of the attack and death toll, saying the bomber was driving a Toyota Corolla when he targeted the Turkish vehicle. AFP PHOTO / Wakil KOHSAR (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Afghanistan

U.S. to keep more troops in Afghanistan

U.S. officials said on Monday that the Obama administration will no longer be cutting the number of soldiers in Afghanistan to 5,500 by the end of 2015 (APGuardian). Although no final decision has been made on how many soldiers will remain, the officials said the administration might allow many of the 9,800 American troops currently in the country to stay well into 2016. There have also been discussions about continuing to have a number of counterterrorism troops in the country; currently there are about 2,000 U.S. troops conducting counterterrorism missions in Afghanistan. The officials added that U.S. President Barack Obama will probably use a visit by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to Washington later this month as the time to announce his decision on a new withdrawal timeline.

Afghanistan gave CIA money to al Qaeda

About $1 million provided by the CIA to a secret Afghan government fund made its way into the hands of al Qaeda in 2010, when it was used to pay a ransom for an Afghan diplomat, the New York Times reported on Saturday (NYT). Letters to and from Osama bin Laden discussed the transaction and the money; bin Laden was concerned that the CIA knew about the money and had tainted it with poison or tracking devices. “God blessed us with a good amount of money this month,” Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, the group’s general manager, wrote in a letter to bin Laden in June 2010, noting that the money would be used for weapons and other needs. The letters were found in the 2011 raid by U.S. Navy SEALs on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and were recently submitted as evidence in the trial of Abid Naseer, a Pakistani man who was convicted of supporting terrorism in New York City earlier this month. However, it seems as though the CIA money was not a trap, and that its shift into al Qaeda coffers was instead a result of poor oversight and loose financial controls.

India

Ruling Indian party denies snooping charges

India’s Congress Party accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party of carrying out “political espionage” on Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, and demanded a “comprehensive” explanation in the Rajya Sabha (upper house of Parliament) in New Delhi on Monday (Indian Express, Livemint). According to the Congress Party, the New Delhi police visited Gandhi’s residence earlier this month, and made “unwarranted and weird” inquiries about him. The questions that the police asked included ones about Gandhi’s hair color, eyes, and shoe size. In response to the Congress Party’s claims, Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said: “The Congress is making a mountain out of not even a molehill” (NDTV). Jaitley added: “526 persons have been profiled using the present form,” and added that the questioning was part of “transparent, security profiling and not associated with any kind of snooping or spying [sic]” (Outlook).

Pakistani cybersecurity firm accused of stealing Indian data

FireEye, a U.S.-based IT security firm, released a report on Thursday stating that a Pakistani cybersecurity firm was found stealing information from the Indian government and defense establishments (Economic Times). According to FireEye, the firm claims to have helped the Pakistani government prepare for cyber warfare and bombarded Indian governmental organizations with emails containing malicious software. Manish Gupta, senior vice president at FireEye, said: “They are essentially penetrating Indian government accounts to find out what the Indian government is up to… They are also targeting defence organizations. Some of the things that could be important to them could be what kind of weapons does India have, where are these weapons deployed, how many people are deployed in these regions, what is the organization structure, are there any military exercises planned” (Times of India). While Indian officials confirmed that the country is the target of cyber attacks, they said the attacks could not be traced and seemingly disputed FireEye’s claims.

An elderly nun allegedly raped in India

An Indian nun in her mid-70s was allegedly raped during a robbery at a convent in Ranaghat City — located in the eastern state of West Bengal — on Saturday (NYT, BBC, NDTV). At least six armed men vandalized the chapel of the Convent of Jesus and Mary, and stole approximately $9,000 in cash and valuables. After releasing CCTV images of the suspects and offering a reward of $1,500 for information on the men, the Indian police on Sunday detained eight potential suspects for questioning. Angry crowds took to the streets to protest the crime. Archbishop Thomas D’Souza said: “This incident has really shaken us up. We don’t know what really is the exact motive” (WSJ). Father Dominic Emmanuel of the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese said: “It is a very, very shameful act, first of all, to rape any woman, any female… But this one becomes even worse because, first of all, she is an old lady and then on top of it, she is a nun. She is a [sic] religious [and] has consecrated her life to God and all her life she has remained a virgin” (CNN).

Pakistan

Suicide attacks in Pakistan churches kill 15

Suicide bombers attacked two Christian churches on Sunday, killing at least 15 people and wounding 70 others (NYTBBC). The bombs were detonated near the gates of St. John’s Catholic Church and Christ Church in Youhanabad — one of Pakistan’s largest Christian neighborhoods and located in Lahore. Afterwards, an enraged crowd killed two men accused of involvement in the attacks. No one has claimed responsibility for the bombings.

BBC conned by Pakistani batsman

Media outlets revealed on Saturday that the BBC was duped by an imposter posing as a Pakistan cricket star (ETTelegraph). Nadeem Alam, posing as former batsman Nadeem Abbasi, repeatedly appeared on BBC World News, the BBC Asian Network, and Radio Five Live as a sports commentator. Alam had on-air conversations with leading cricketers, despite only ever playing cricket in his hometown of Huddersfield, England. Nadeem Abbasi told reporters that if he ever finds Alam, he will “punch him in the face for damaging the country’s reputation” and faulted the BBC for failing to check their facts.

— Emily Schneider and Neeli Shah

Edited by Peter Bergen

WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images

Emily Schneider is a program associate in the International Security Program at New America. She is also an assistant editor of the South Asia channel. Twitter: @emilydsch
Neeli Shah is a Washington D.C.-based economics, law, and policy professional. She is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Twitter: @neelishah

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